Thursday, May 16, 2013

Hauntings: A Review

Hauntings
Edited by: Ellen Datlow
Softcover: 432 pages
Publisher: Tachyon Publications
Language: English
April 2013, ARC
Genre: Horror/ Anthology

“Ghosts. Ghouls. Spirits. Monsters. What happens to the best of us – and the worst of us – when we die? And what happens to the living when they get left behind...or when they get in the way?

Ellen Datlow, the horror genre’s most acclaimed editor confronts our obsession with the mysteries of the afterlife in this chilling collection of ghost stories from the past twenty five years. Follow tortured souls through decaying houses and suburban streets. Run from hungry neighbors and unforgiving children. Turn the page and be Haunted.

This spine tingling anthology will take you from the graveyard to the electric chair. Acclaimed authors Neil Gaiman, Joyce Carol Oates, Peter Straub, and many more will expose your fears of - and fascinations with – death in these twenty four unnerving tales that will stick with you long after you are done reading. If you think there is no such things as ghosts, think again.”

*A sweetly vengeful voice on the radio calls a young soldier out to join a phantom patrol.

*A hotel maid who threw her newborn child from a fourth-story window lingers in an interminable state.

*An intern in a paranormal research facility delves deeply into the unexplained deaths of two staff members.

*A serial killer plans his ultimate artistic achievement: the unveiling of an extremely special instrument in a very private concert.

+++++++++++++

There is something incredibly satisfying about anthologies for me. I like them as they are perfect night time reads, as in you can read one or two of the short stories and put the book down instead of staying up all night (Of course this completely depends on not being completely engrossed in the stories and wanting to read all of them at once because they are so good) . I also like them as it takes skill to tell an entire story in just a few pages rather than over the course of a trilogy or a lengthy series. It is also not something that a whole lot have mastered. Essentially you are hooking me with the first paragraph and giving me enough to build a world, tell a story, have some plot and character development, all within a few pages. Now admittedly I am the kind of gal who looks at the authors who have done some of the stories, but there is one person whom I always dig, and that is Ellen Datlow as an editor. She is the one who has chosen each in order to take you on a journey as much as the author’s stories themselves. Now my first really memorable anthologies that I loved were also Datlow’s doing (along with Terri Windling). They were Snow White, Blood Red and Black Thorn, White Heart. They were tales from my childhood except oh so much more sinister. I loved them, still do as those volumes still sit on my bookshelves.

The Story List:
1. “Eenie, Meenie, Ipsateenie” by Pat Cadigan
2. “Hunger: A Confession” by Dale Bailey
3. “Cargo E.” by Michael Lewis
4. “Delta Sly Honey” by Lucius Shepard
5. “Nothing Will Hurt You” by David Morrell
6. “The Ammonite Violin (Murder Ballad #4)” by CaitlĂ­n R. Kiernan
7. “Haunted” by Joyce Carol Oates
8. “The Have-Nots” by Elizabeth Hand
9. “Closing Time” by Neil Gaiman
10. “Anna” by F. Paul Wilson
11. “Mr. Fiddlehead” by Jonathan Carroll
12. “The Fooly” by Terry Dowling
13. “The Toll” by Paul Walther
14. “The Pennine Tower Restaurant” by Simon Kurt Unsworth
15. “Distress Call” by Connie Willis
16. “The Horn” by Stephen Gallagher
17. “Everybody Goes” by Michael Marshall Smith
18. “Transfigured Night” by Richard Bowes
19. “Hula Ville” by James P. Blaylock
20. “The Bedroom Light” by Jeffrey Ford
21. “Spectral Evidence” by Gemma Files
22. “Two Houses” by Kelly Link
23. “Where Angels Come In” by Adam L. G. Nevill
24. “Hunger: An Introduction” by by Peter Straub

Things I loved: Now I love the folks over at Tachyon Publishing. Not only do they send me out ARCs every now and again to read and review, but they are nice people to boot. And I love that they send me anthologies. This one was all about hauntings and not just of the ghostly variety and that interested me. I won’t go into each of the stories but rather highlight my favorites. As far as the what I like and didn’t like it really only comes down to what stories I liked and did not like.

Hunger by Dale Bailey was great about a young boy who is tormented by his older brother’s horror stories which so often leave him shuddering in the dark. But when the siblings move into an old house with a sordid and horrific past, the roles are reversed. I love the way it is told, very much like a fireside ghost story and quite chilling. Immediately following Hunger was also one of the best stories in the anthology, Cargo by E. Michael Lewis about a loadmaster and some precious cargo he has aboard. Not exactly scary, but thought provoking and emotional. I love that each of the those two ghost stories had such different reactions from me.

Surprisingly I loved Caitlin R. Kiernan’s The Ammonite Violin as I thought the story was a bit of a retread, but she has a wonderful gift with words and teh way the story is told is what makes it special. But it also makes me want to put on Jamie Bell and watch the Red Violin. That is not necessarily a bad thing. Of course sometimes you need some lighter fare, and Terry Dowling’s The Fooley is one of them about one man’s adventure when he comes across a stranger on the road. Two of my favorite tales in the anthology were Transfigured night by Richard Bowes and Where Angels Come In by Adam Nevill but for very different reasons. One is about a little boy who wishes for a best friend and the other is about the creepy house on the hill. Another great story is The Pennine Tower Restaraunt by Simon Kurt Unsworth which is delightfully creepy and atmospheric. There are other great stories mixed within as well and even the ones I didn’t care for as much certainly have their merits.

Things I didn’t love so much: I wasn’t in love with Delta Sly Honey by Lucius Shepard as the pacing was a bit too slow for me. Distress Call by Connie Willis was just confusing with a lot of loose ends and not in the good way. Surprisingly I didn’t love Neil Gaiman’s Closing Time as much as I thought I would as I felt it spent too much time setting up the tale rather than telling it. Not that any of these tales are bad, but they didn’t hook me the way that the others did.

Buy or Borrow: Buy. The great things about anthologies is there is usually something for everyone, kind of like a soundtrack. And if you are looking for some atypical ghost stories this anthology is also great.

Part of: Standalone

Also Recommended: Please try some of Ellen’s other anthologies. As I mentioned earlier the Blood Red Anthology is divine especially if you like the retelling of some of your favorite childhood fairy tales and some you may not have heard of. I would also recommend Sirens and other Daemon Lovers, the Best Horror of the Year Anthologies and More. For more urban fantasy fare in anthology form are The Unusual Suspects, the Blood Lite anthologies, Urban Fantasy Anthology and more. As I said there is usually something for everyone when it comes to Anthologies

3.5 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks 

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